The Players: Don Cherry
Cherry first attained prominence with Ornette Coleman, with whom he began playing around 1957. At that time Cherry's instrument of choice was a pocket trumpet (or cornet) — a miniature version of the full-sized model. The smaller instrument — in Cherry's hands, at least — got a smaller, slightly more nasal sound than is typical of the larger horn. Though he would play a regular cornet off and on throughout his career, Cherry remained most closely identified with the pocket instrument. Cherry stayed with Coleman through the early ’60s, playing on the first seven (and most influential) of the saxophonist’s albums. In 1960, he recorded The Avant-Garde with John Coltrane. After leavingColeman's band, Cherry played with Steve Lacy, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp, and Albert Ayler. In 1963-4, Cherry co-led the New York Contemporary Five with Shepp and John Tchicai. With Gato Barbieri,Cherry led a band in Europe from 1964-6, recording two of his most highly regarded albums, Complete Communion and Symphony for Improvisers. Cherry taught at Dartmouth College in 1970, and recorded with the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in 1973. He lived in Sweden for four years; he used the country as a base for his travels around Europe and the Middle East. Cherry became increasingly interested in other, mostly non-Western styles of music. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he performed and recorded withCodona, a cooperative group with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and multi-instrumentalist Collin Walcott. Codona's music was a pastiche of African, Asian, and other indigenous musics. Concurrently,Cherry joined with ex-Coleman associates Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, and Dewey Redman to form Old and New Dreams, a band dedicated to playing the compositions of their former employer. After the dissolution of Codona, Cherry formed Nu with Vasconcelos and saxophonist Carlos Ward. In 1988, he made Art Deco, a more traditional album of acoustic jazz, with Haden, Billy Higgins, and saxophonist James Clay. Until his death in 1995, Cherry would continue to combine disparate musical genres; his interest in world music never abated. Cherry learned to play and compose for wood flutes, tambura, gamelan, and various other non-Western instruments. Elements of these musics inevitably found their way into his later compositions and performances, as on 1990’s Multi Kulti, a characteristic celebration of musical diversity.